Civilla Storytelling

Civilla is a social innovation center tackling social and civic issues through human-centered design. I spent 3-weeks at Civilla creating a “takeaway” artifact that the organization could send home with visitors and those interested in the organization. The objective was help users talk about Civilla's unique purpose and share their experience of Civilla with others. 

Client // Civilla
Industry // Social Innovation
Project // Storytelling Artifact
Role // Project Lead, UX/UI, Product Designer
Time // 3-week sprint


Co-founder Michael Brannen takes a group through Civilla's Reform Project

Civilla's immersive storytelling exhibits

Civilla's immersive storytelling exhibits


To gain a stronger grasp of the organization's purpose and goals, I began by interviewing Civilla's two co-founders and design director. 

Insight Download

I paid especially attention to the overlaps and differences in each person’s description of what Civilla is trying to do. A question that developed out of the interview was to ask for examples of “That’s soo Civilla” - quick snapshots that represent the dynamic, quirky, and often ambiguous culture of the organization. 

Synthesis Mindmap

In synthesizing the interviews, I created a mindmap of different words, ideas, and topics that were mentioned. From this, I pulled out four design principles reflecting the delicate balance the takeaway would need to achieve:

  • Simple but intriguing
  • High quality but not extravagant
  • Thoughtful but not precious
  • Clear but evolving


In a push to get out the lightest, quickest, easiest version for feedback, I did a rapid prototyping of four possible concepts. 

Prototype A )  Hand-drawn storybook, folded in a clever way

Prototype B )  Small stickers with Civilla’s philosophies and guiding principles

Prototype C )   Fill-in-the-blank name tags that push visitors to grapple with questions Civilla often introduces 

Prototype C )  Fill-in-the-blank name tags that push visitors to grapple with questions Civilla often introduces 

Prototype D )  Give/Get Board for  visitors to leave insights they've  gained or questions they now have.

Based on feedback from Civilla’s leadership, I focused on developing the storybook and sticker concepts.  These two concepts received the most interest, positive feedback, and had potential to be elegant solutions.

Both concepts went through several iterations and rounds of feedback. In particular, I tested the storybook with actual visitors who had been introduced to Civilla, as well as people who were completely unfamiliar with the organization. Different iterations included variations in: handwritten vs. type fonts, different wording/images, and types of paper. 


Two takeaway artifacts were finalized and produced. Civilla is actively using both products to enrich the organization's narrative and fill a gap in their storytelling toolbox.

1) Bite-size Stickers

Like Civilla, these stickers are small and mighty. Each sheet of 8 sticker plays on a different theme. These include: tips for rapid prototyping, human-centered design questions, and Civilla's "Simple Rules".

Done in a simple hand-written style reflective of the Civilla brand, these stickers serve multiple purposes and can be imaginatively utilized in multiple ways. Currently, the organization is using them to give to visitors, to put on letters and correspondent to key partners, and as reminders throughout the office. 


2) Primer & Workbook

Using a single sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper, I created a “zine” style storybook that provides a primer on Civilla in simple and approachable terms. It uses a hypothetical story to prompt the user's thinking about how they might work with the organization. Civilla's mission, philosophy, and process are weaved into the short story and introduced in the context of questions they would ask at the beginning of all projects.

The storybook can be folded inside-out to reveal a “workbook” that walks the user through a few basic questions to consider in the human-centered design process. The workbook includes a striped down image of the "user needs vs institutional planning" picture that is used in every introduction/tour of what Civilla does. This provides an anchor point for users to recall their tour experience as well as share it with others.

The workbook also contains a "courageous leader quiz" that not only helps users determine whether they should partner with Civilla, but also prompts self-reflection on how they could be more courageous in their work. 

Both the storybook and workbook maintain’s Civilla’s branding style and can be easily updated as the organization develops and grows.

+ Civilla Future Website

In addition to these two takeaways, my conversations with Civilla's leadership led to a quick sketch of a possible Civilla "future website" that envisions the type of spaces and projects they hope to occupy in the next few years.

Although very much a rough draft and only one of the many possible futures, it provides a visual and tangible artifact that Civilla can now use in their storytelling and future planning.


+ Civilla Check-in/Out Cards

Civilla brought me back in to do the visual design their Check-in/out cards, which they use everyday as a group for a morning check-in and end of day check-out. As they said when they asked me to take on the project, "We have the content, we just need the Lan."

Civilla wanted the cards to have the handwritten quality of the previous work I did for them and for it to be in line with their visual branding. I came up with a few quick hand sketches, and over email we decided on a direction. I created two initial prototypes out of our discussion and created the rest of the cards in the style that was picked.

The final product included the box cover design, the mini instruction booklet, 50 double-sided cards, and 10 fill-in cards for users to add in their own prompts.